The US Army’s 101st Airborne Division has been deployed to Europe for the first time in nearly 80 years amid heightened tensions between Russia and NATO over the Ukraine war. The unit, nicknamed the “Screaming Eagles”, is trained to act on any battlefield in the world at a moment’s notice.
CBS News interviewed the division’s deputy commander, Brigadier General John Lubas, and Col. Edwin Matthaidess, commander of the 2nd Combat Brigade, in a Black Hawk helicopter, right on the edge of NATO territory, a few kilometers away from the Ukrainian border, in Romania .
Since Russian dictator Vladimir Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine on February 24, invading forces have advanced north from the Crimean Peninsula, Ukrainian territory illegally annexed by the Kremlin regime in 2014.
For more than seven months, Russian troops have been trying to advance along Ukraine’s Black Sea coast in the Kherson region, trying to capture the key Ukrainian ports of Mykolaiv and Odesa.
The goal of the invaders is to cut off Ukraine’s access to the Black Sea and leave the country landlocked. This threat, so close to Romania, is one of the reasons why one of the US Army’s most elite divisions has been deployed to the region, along with heavy combat equipment.
“We are ready to defend every centimeter of NATO territory. We come with special capabilities, from our air assault capability… We are a light infantry force but, again, we bring mobility with us, for our aircraft and our air assaults,” Lubas said.
Heading north along Romania’s Black Sea coast, the Black Hawk helicopter eventually landed at the base where American and Romanian troops were striking targets in a large-scale ground and air assault exercise.
The US Army is here
Tank and artillery shells were not blind, but war. The exercise was meant to recreate the combat atmosphere that Ukrainian forces go through every day in front of the Russian army, a few kilometers across the border.
These exercises are taking place so close to the border to send a clear message to Russia and NATO allies – that the US military is here.
“The real meaning for me – the fact that we have American troops here – is like having allies in Normandy, before any enemy was there,” said Major General Iulian Berdila to CBS journalists, referring to the famous landing in Normandy by Allied troops in June 1944.
In total, around 4,700 soldiers from the 101st Division’s base in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, were deployed to reinforce NATO’s Eastern Flank.
Matthaidess said he and his troops are the closest US forces to the war in Ukraine. From this vantage point, US troops closely monitor Russian forces and conduct exercises to “replicate exactly what happens” in war.
“It keeps us alert and ready,” he said.
The Screaming Eagles division and their commanders have repeatedly said they are “ready to fight the night” and are there to defend NATO territory if fighting escalates and if there is any attack on NATO territory and say they are fully prepared to go through the border in Ukraine, if this happens.
Editor: Adrian Dumitru
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